Bay beach has gone to the dogs

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LOWER TOWNSHIP – Township manager Mike Voll is just looking for a little common courtesy. 

“The beaches are being spoiled by people who are rude and ignorant,” said township manager Voll. “I don’t see how someone could let their dog download on the beach and just walk away.”

The Bay beach dog issue was last addressed in August, when Voll issued a sternly worded release. He said the township planes to strictly enforce violations for inconsiderate dog walkers that leave dog waste and allow their pets to run loose on the beach.

At Monday night’s council meeting, Mayor Michael Beck said that warnings will no longer be the first plan of action.

“I guess the word got out that we would issue warnings. I’d like the word to get out that we are ticketing. It is out of control,” said Beck.

Lower Township's regulations require dog owners to remove any dog waste on public beaches, sidewalks or other public thoroughfare. Any person found guilty of a violation is subject to a fine of $200 for a first offense, with a fine of up to $200 or imprisonment in county jail for each violation thereafter. 

Primary enforcement is through the animal control department, which is supervised by the Lower Township Police Department. Council members urged neighbors and residents to call the police non-emergency line, 886-2711, for canine scofflaw activity.

“I have seen the police out there on their ATVs,” said Villas resident Ed Butler. “They are great about responding. But people still let their dogs run wild – not under any control. If they write tickets, maybe we’ll see some change.”

Last summer, Voll suggested the possibility of using code enforcement officials and police officers in plain clothes to step up enforcement activities.

Ray Flickinger, of North Cape May, suggested that the council consider limiting the hours dogs are allowed on the beaches.

“We are one of the few beaches that allow dogs, but we are getting more and more – with more loose at times,” he said. “It has to be addressed in some way; maybe limiting the time, like they do on the Wildwood Boardwalk with bicycles.”

Beck asked the council to discuss incremental changes to the dog policy on the beaches.

“But, it is still an enforcement issue,” he said. 

The state’s Department of Environmental Protection cites pet waste as “one of many small sources of pollution that can cumulatively have a big impact if left unmanaged.” State health officials estimate that the Garden State has a population of over a half million dogs. 

Some of the diseases that can be spread from pet waste include bacterial infections called   campylobacteriosis and calmonellosis, which carry symptoms like fever, muscle aches, headache, vomiting, and diarrhea; and toxocarisis – roundworms transmitted from animals to humans that can cause vision loss, rash, fever, or cough.

The state’s environmental watchdogs also note that pet waste can degrade water quality.

“There is an animal issue on our beaches,” said Anna May Coombs, of North Cape May. “It’s not just in summer. It is not just vacationers, I’m sorry to say, it is residents too.

“I think we are entitled to a people’s beach, it has become an animal beach,” she added.

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